The ESPN hockey person of the year for 2017 was Bill Foley, the owner of the expansion Vegas Golden Knights team.
Bill Foley may have written some large cheques, and yes he pushed for the team, he created the foundation, but did he have anything to do with the hockey side of things? Not enough for him to deserve to be “Hockey Person of the Year” — especially over his general manager George McPhee and head coach Gerard Gallant.
The work that McPhee did to piece together a team that is currently sitting atop their division and is second overall in the league is unmatched by previous expansion teams. His ability to pile up the number of drafts picks he did, the hiring of his hockey operations staff, and his ability to find the right coach in Gerard Gallant are what makes McPhee the true hockey person of the year.
Saturday’s wild card games were anything but normal. Marcus Mariotta and the Titans managed to overcome an 18-point deficit at halftime to take down Kansas City. The Rams were handled by the Falcons, setting up a date between Atlanta and Philadelphia in the NFC divisional round this upcoming weekend.
The Buffalo Bills broke their playoff drought thanks to a win over Miami in week 17 and a Baltimore loss to Cincinnati. In their wild card playoff game against Jacksonville, the game was a battle of field position, with both the Bills and Jags exchanging three and outs in the first quarter of the game and struggling to get first downs. What was likely a closer game than many would have thought, the Bills were edged by a touchdown and saw their historic season come to a close at the hands of their previous coach, Doug Marrone. Though the wound is fresh, the Bills will be back — it won’t be as long a drought between the next playoff appearance.
With the Saints eliminating the Panthers, they now have to travel to Minnesota to play the NFC North champions, a rematch of the first game of the season in which the then-Sam Bradford led Vikings took a 29-19 win. Will Minnesota’s home field advantage help them or will the Saints offense be too much for them to handle?
As much as I would like not to talk about the New England Patriots, the reports surfacing that suggest there is some bad blood between owner Robert Kraft, head coach Bill Belichick, and starting quarterback Tom Brady have raised some interesting questions. Will all three be back in New England next season? I think it is unrealistic to imagine Kraft not being part of the picture, and though it may seem odd to talk about Belichick leaving to coach another team, I don’t think many people expect Tom Brady to finish his career elsewhere. When you have someone like Brady, who has won as many Super Bowls as he has, who has managed to gain the trust and support from the owner, if one of the three has to go, it seems obvious that it’ll be Belichick. Is it wrong that Belichick was seemingly forced to trade Jimmy Garoppolo — who he was presumably grooming to replace Brady when the time came? Yes, it is. Somehow, in a situation where the head coach was doing his job to plan for the future of his team beyond Tom Brady (who, whether he likes it or not, is 40 years old, and will not last forever) he was made out to be the problem. Will the recent reports cause teams to wait and see if Belichick is on the market? Where would Belichick go? I think there is a possibility that he might end up with the Giants, but only time will tell how long the trio can co-exist.
The college football playoff gave us two polar opposite semi-final games. Georgia and Oklahoma had to take to double overtime to decide the highest scoring game in the CFP era, with the Bulldogs finding a way to eliminate Heisman trophy winner Baker Mayfield and the Sooners in what looked to be their season.
Alabama and Clemson played for the third year in a row, and Alabama shut up everyone who thought they didn’t deserve to earn the fourth spot in the playoff. Clemson’s offense was non-existent compared to last years win over Alabama in the National Championship game, and as much as Dabo would like to say his team has improved their run game — they really had no choice in losing Deshaun Watson — the run game had to be better because they lost their biggest offensive threat.
Perhaps the best story of the bowl season was the UCF Knights — going 13-0 — the only team in the FBS to finish the season undefeated. Scott Frost, who was officially announced as Nebraska’s new head coach a day after his Knights won the AAC championship game, stayed with UCF to coach them in the Peach Bowl against Auburn. Frost is an example of a coach who is committed to his players. Capping off the unbelievable season with a thrilling win over Auburn — many UCF fans, players, coaches, and university officials declared themselves “National Champions”. The Knights not getting into the playoff isn’t unexpected, seeing as though they don’t play in a Power 5 conference. However, the Knights are a perfect example of why the playoff will likely go to eight teams in the future. It’s hard to justify UCF not getting in after beating Auburn — who beat BOTH teams that are playing in the National Championship Game. Had UCF lost to Auburn, it might be a different story, but the committee will soon adjust the playoff so that there don’t have to be two national champions again.